President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Aspen manufacturing facility in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape, will produce 30 million vaccine doses for South Africa in April alone. The rollout is set to start in the same month.

Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza, accompanied by other high-profile officials, visited the facility to assess the process of vaccine production on Monday.

This is part of government’s partnership with the private sector:

Ramaphosa says 220 million doses of the vaccines will be exported across Africa.

Aspen Pharmacare collaborated with Johnson and Johnson to establish the capacity required for the manufacturing of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the sterile facility in Nelson Mandela Bay. The facility contains high-technology equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture drugs and vaccines.

President Ramaphosa is happy with the progress made so far. “This Aspen here belongs to us as South Africans and it is making life-saving vaccines for our people and we, as South Africa, must be in pole positions to be able to get the vaccines but we have also said that these vaccines must be available not only for South Africa but for the rest of the continent as well with immediate effect,” he says.

The facility also has the capacity to produce up to 300 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine annually. Ramaphosa adds that Aspen has invested more than R300 billion in it.

“Now, the J and J vaccine is very beneficial to us as it is a one-shot vaccine and that is what we are going to need for people in outlying areas and rural areas. Now, that is going to give a huge boost to our continent, especially when the COVAX vaccine will come to play as the vaccine rollout takes place.”

Aspen Group CEO, Steven Saad, says they are producing close to a million vaccines a day.

“From our perspective, we can make many doses. We are ramping up. We are actually making more and more. We really were only supposed to come online a few months later and I’m just so proud of my team because they did so well to become the lead supplier and they did so well. So, all credit to the people here.

They have worked 18-hour days; they have come at 4 o’clock in the morning to start batches. They are so committed to make sure that South Africa gets batches and the more batches we make the more people we will be able to vaccinate. It can only pick up from here,” he adds.

Over 230 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated so far in South Africa.